Mount & Blade: Warband Review–GOTY 2014

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*Sources of screenshots are listed in their respective file-names.

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Medieval RPGs typically contain sprawling storylines, a multitude of character customization options and significant elements of choice. While providing immersive and long-lasting experiences, games of this type usually also feature copious amounts of antibiblical content as well. This can be anything from magic to the player-initiated worship of deities.

As a result, Christians and families who appreciate the genre may feel extremely limited. Over time, you may even begin to believe that these games are your only options.

However, not only is there an excellent alternative available, but it’s also one of the top rated games on Steam to date and almost endlessly expandable due to an active modding community.

This game is Mount & Blade: Warband.

M&B Screenshot 1

Overlooking a village in the territory of Swadia in first-person mode…

Mount & Blade: Warband is an open-world role-playing game set in the fictional, semi-realistic medieval land of Calradia. This means you’ll duel enemies with swords, shields and crossbows–not magical abilities.

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Charging a group of entrenched bandit archers with one of my knights…

A look at the options menu shows that you can determine how much you are damaged in combat, the amount of damage your companions can receive, etc.

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This level of adjustment is dearly needed, as Mount & Blade: Warband is one of the most open-ended RPGs available.

You’ll begin by choosing your character’s background, appearance and starting skills/weapon proficiencies.

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The background and upbringing you choose will determine your initial strengths, but do not ultimately define your character. You can mold your archer into a warrior and vice versa to fit your playstyle as you progress.

M&B-Warband Screenshots 13 (2)

After choosing your background, you can put points into various attributes to further define your initial skills.

You then choose what region of Calradia to start your adventure in. Shortly afterward, a thief ambushes you in an alleyway.

M&B-Warband Screenshots 13 (3)

The speed and angle of every attack is calculated, making a well-timed strike far stronger than a rushed offense.

Combat is easily understood, yet difficult to master. Swipe your mouse in one of the four directions (up, down, left or right) to attack while giving orders to your troops with F1-F3 and the numeric keys…

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Directional blocking is performed (by default) automatically with a click of the right mouse button. However, I would highly recommend turning that setting off–the learning curve associated with attacking and defending manually is well worth the results.

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A well-timed block.

After your encounter with the thief in the alleyway, you are given the choice to take an introductory quest.

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You can take this string of starting quests or refuse it entirely with no penalty.

Whether you accept this quest or not, you are set…free.

Free to roam Calradia in search of adventure, profit or power…

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Hunting for bandits near Reyvadin.

Free to enter towns and villages–interacting with their people, finding information and recruiting special characters (with their own histories) to your party…

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Upon finding out who I was, this drunk quickly apologized and left the tavern–my reputation preceded me.

Free to participate in a number of side activities, including competing in rough brawls in the arena or grand tournaments to win honor and fame…

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Riding in a tournament with my lance at the ready…

Intra-factional power struggles, wars, truces and marriages occur all the time–for the most part, without your involvement. The fact that this world clearly does not revolve around you makes it feel truly alive, and this feeling only intensifies when attempting to become King or Queen.

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The Kingdom of Rhodoks and Sarranid Sultanate have made peace–for now.

There are so many things going on and so many ways to accomplish objectives that a new player can easily be confused–even after going through the tutorial. For this reason, I’d recommend keeping the manual and user forums close at hand.

This tutorial does a great job regarding the basics of combat and movement--nothing in there about herding cows or ransoming political prisoners, though...

This tutorial does a great job teaching the basics of combat and movement–nothing in there about herding cows or ransoming political prisoners, though…

Online multiplayer is available, allowing you to battle with up to 200+ players around the world at a single time in a variety of modes including Siege, Team Deathmatch, etc.

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Team Deathmatch in a desert oasis level…

Two official expansions for Mount & Blade: Warband have been released. Napoleonic Wars focuses on adding to the multiplayer portion of the game with firearms and an authentic 19th century setting. Meanwhile, the Viking Conquest expansion is single-player focused and includes a full campaign based off of the popular “Brytenwaldamod.

Arguably more exciting are the numerous free, community-made modifications that transform the game. Below is the trailer for Napoleonic-era mod, L’Aigle. This player-made expansion has been in development for the past three years and is releasing December 31st, 2014.

I am not saying Mount & Blade is without fault. Female characters entering the arena are inexplicably clad only in their underwear. Even with community enhancements, the graphics are fairly antiquated.

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Notice how male characters still have pants at the very least.

However, in Mount & Blade: Warband I finally see an RPG I can play as a Christian without a serious weight on my conscience.

If that isn’t worth supporting, I don’t know what is.

Conclusion:

Mount & Blade: Warband is not only an incredible alternative to typical fantasy-RPGs, but a more open-ended and expandable game overall. In less than a day, it has become my Game of the Year.

Mount & Blade: Warband can currently be purchased at an 80% discount ($3.99 USD) for the Steam Holiday Sale. A demo is also available on the site.

Potential Concerns:

When the armor is removed from female companions or the player (as a female character) enters the arena, they are depicted wearing only bras and panties.

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Blood is present, but can be turned off:

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The option to hide blood can be found in the “configure” menu.

Some profanity (such as the curse word for an illegitimate child), while rare, can be encountered.

It is possible to court and marry a lady (or even elope with her). However, no sexual activity is depicted.

M&B-Warband Marriage Screenshot from YouTube-- astoundingsteve channel

References to more lustful activity can sometimes be encountered.

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I have been wandering through the cities of Calradia, leaving a string of love-sick women and cuckolded husbands in my wake. But I grow weary of such simple challenges…

References are also made to the superstitious beliefs of some of the diverse cultures inhabiting Calradia (including a companion mumbling a prayer of thanks to his god over the dead of a battle).

It is possible for the player to commit crimes such as raiding caravans, assassination, and slave trading. Achievements are granted for some of these activities:

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Buy Now! (Steam)

Expansions

Mods

Original Game (Steam)

*This title was received for review/coverage. See our statement of ethics here and game review criteria here.
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*More articles from Video Games and the Bible.

About Nelson

Writer, amateur #gamedev, and Founder o' Video Games and the Bible. My interviews bring the boys to the yard. Featured from Kotaku to Rock Paper Shotgun. Dropsy.
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